My most-controversial post ever yesterday

Who knew I’d create so much controversy with a post asking people to call their congressional representative and support cycling in the upcoming transportation bill? There’s definitely something to the oft-repeated advice that political stuff should be kept away from retail! I would like to believe that the things I asked for had such broad appeal that both sides, left & right, would not have much trouble. Especially since my customer base is presumably favorably predisposed to better infrastructure for cycling! And for the most part, my call to action was well-received. Lots of people sent emails thanking me not just for bringing the issue (Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives that could potentially end all federal funding for pedestrian and cycling road improvements) to them but also for the clear instructions showing what they could do.

But I had one email from someone on the “left” who was very disappointed that I would ask people to support an amendment from someone (Representative Petri, Republican from Wisconsin) on the “right”, feeling that I was endorsing the person (Petri). The reality is that it’s extremely important this amendment did come from someone on the “right” since it gives cross-party appeal, something desperately needed right now! It’s very unfortunate that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists have become associated with Democrats and derided by Republicans, as a matter of obedience to their party chiefs. I am willing to work with anyone, but especially those traditionally, well, hostile is perhaps an appropriate word, to our needs.

And I received a very different email from someone at least initially offended that I was willing to mortgage his children’s future by spending money today that we don’t have. This was probably a reaction to the last couple of paragraphs in my piece, where I explained that investing in the future represents our belief in that future, and that it’s not an unusual thing to do (giving the examples of having kids and buying houses, neither of which are things that can generally be done using cash on hand but instead represent a commitment to pay on the installment plan). In retrospect, those last paragraphs didn’t need to be there, but in this case, it did start a dialog with the customer in which discussing politics became “real.” Instead of just digging in and saying this is the way it is (as is the norm in DC right now), he explained why he thinks the way he does, and I explained why I think the way I do, and there was actually significant common ground.

Will I walk this path again? Most likely. Even viewed strictly from a selfish business standpoint, there’s likely more to gain than lose (making assumptions that there is in fact some pre-selection of customers that tends to favor those more willing to tax themselves slightly, or give up something else, in favor of better cycling opportunities… this is a bicycle business after all!).  –Mike–

One thought on “My most-controversial post ever yesterday

  1. Well, Mike. You did the right thing. Have a virtual beer on me.

    We often spend money we don’t have today. Its called a mortgage. Although “mortgaging our future” has come to have a bad sound to it, how many Americans actually have a mortgage on our homes and factories?

    We borrow the money (or raise taxes, God forbit) because there is allegedly a long term benefit to building important things. I think that is true of bicycling infrastructure, if it is built correctly. On the grand scale, we often borrow money to do big things with the assumption that the economy will grow and allow us to pay off our debts. Municipal bonds. Treasury Bills. Remember those U.S. Savings Bonds?

    That is the big question. With the U.S. living from economic burst bubble to economic burst bubble and not knowing how the heck we will replace all the lost jobs and factories that built our enduring economy during the twentieth century, we really do need to worry. But the pittance we spend on bicycling stuff, and the positive results we see in our communities from it in terms of green transportation and better public health, are well worth every cent, whether borrowed or taxed. There are far bigger sacred cows to go after in Congress.

    Not to mention, we need to learn to do stuff again rather than agonizing over every insult, real or imaginary, large or small, it might do to someone or something or to “the environment”. Yes, to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. They are breaking them every day in the third world, and making far more of a mess of the planet than if we did it ourselves.

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